Block, Fiction, Life, Novel, Real Life, Writing

Not writer’s block, it’s an abduction!

For the first time in eons, I’ve decided not to watch American Idol this season. I doubt they’ll miss me. I’m not in their target demographic, nor am I an educated listener. Quite often, I think someone gave a wonderful performance, and then the judges tear it to pieces. And I confess, I’ve only ever bought one winner’s CD, and that was Daughtry’s. So, yeah. No Idol this year.

I will be watching Mad Men when it returns because it’s great writing, but I really need to limit my distractions, and watching TV is low on my priority list anyway. I have far too many distractions at a time when I need NONE. During lunch with a writer friend last week, we talked about missing the fire we had when we wrote our last books, when the words came so fast we could barely keep up. I’ve had little success stoking that on my WIP.

Recently, I’ve read some blog posts about “excuses” for not writing. Needing long periods of quiet, uninterrupted time was mentioned as a bogus excuse. Well … maybe for those writers it is. I know many writers have small children and manage to write prolifically. I know many writers have day jobs and manage to write prolifically. I’m not one of those writers.

Last year, my schedule changed drastically. Gone, instantly, were the 40 hours per week of being alone, in silence, to write. I knew it might be harder to do, but I thought I could carry on. After all, I had this writing thing down pat. Maybe I could have if the stresses of those circumstances had not increased my fibromyalgia symptoms. It sent them raging, to be honest. Physical pain, I can work with, through, or around, but some of my symptoms are brain related, and that’s a bummer when you’re trying to write.

At times, my brain is foggy. I see the scene, I just can’t quite translate it to words. Like fish in water, the words are right there, but they slip out of my fingers when I try to grab them. Sometimes I can only see the shadows in a scene and when I look for the objects that cast them, they jumble and I can’t make sense of anything. It’s like The Muse is teasing me. Cruelly.

Then there’s the ADD-like symptoms. I open my file, type a few words, and then I find myself in the kitchen making tea. Or checking the pantry for dinner ingredients. Or googling for toothpaste without sodium laurel sulfate. Or playing a Facebook game. Or—believe it or not—cleaning out the junk drawer. Why did I stop writing? I have no clue. It just happens. Abducted by my alien brain.

When I realize what’s happened, I sit back down. I may write a paragraph or two at a time, so that’s progress of a sort, but the pace is horribly frustrating. It’s not as if I’m a literary writer who turns out a masterpiece every decade or two. So, the writing’s not going too well, but it’s not for lack of trying.

By the way, if any of you fibro suffers have a suggestion for fighting the fog and lack of concentration, I’d love to hear it.

Fiction, Motivation, Writing

Still trying to find my way back

I feel as if I’m drifting in a small boat through the fog, drowsy, picking up snatches of muffled conversation as I pass by. But in reality the boat has docked. The fog has cleared. So why can’t I wake up? Quick, someone slap me.

Little did I know when I took a break to prepare for Christmas that it would be so hard to get back to work. Even with a painful back (now on the mend) I should be able to wrap my brain around putting one word after another. The spirit is willing, but the mind is weak.

I opened my WIP last night and read through it, but didn’t add anything. It’s not even that I don’t know what scene comes next because I do, several scenes in fact. I’m not discouraged, or blocked, just scatter-brained.

That goes for social media too. I open Twitter, but nothing comes to mind to say. Ditto for Google+. For a few minutes, I lurk, reading what others have to say, and then leave. I can’t even think of anything worthy to say on my Facebook page.

Maybe I need more sleep. Or less caffeine. I need something, that’s for sure. I’m trying not to listen to that voice that’s whispering that maybe this is it. I’ll never write again. *sigh*

I know you’re better disciplined. It’s probably been easy for you to get back to work. And since we’re on the topic, what are you working on exactly?

Photo: The Lady of Shalott by William A. Breakspeare (1872-1903).

Craft, Fiction, My Books, Novel, Scene, Tips, Writing

Why use graph paper to write a novel?

As a rule, I don’t write my fiction by hand, and I’ve certainly never written it on graph paper. But recently, in the middle of a session working on my next novel, I went to the supply closet and grabbed my graphing pad. For the next couple of hours, I did my WIP “writing” with pencil and ruler. Why?

I write fiction by “sight”, meaning I have to see it as a mental movie before I can write it out. Several scenes in my new story have characters moving about a large house that I couldn’t quite envision. I had a clear picture of individual rooms, but those rooms’ relation to all the others in the house stayed a bit murky. I needed to draw the floor plan.

That may seem nitpicky, but it bugs me if I can’t picture locations when I read a book. I want to see the “movie” while I read the same way I do when writing. And if I, the writer, don’t visualize the scene clearly, it’s likely my readers won’t either.

I expect I’ll have to map out the grounds around this house too, for logic’s sake. Heck, I might even sketch the exterior of the house for inspiration. That probably won’t figure in the cover art though. I have a different vision for that.

Your turn: Do you use any unusual tools to aid your writing?

Family, Life, Real Life, Recipes, Writing

The OMG I Forgot to Start Dinner Shepherd’s Pie

Has this ever happened to you? You opened your WIP, but soon your progress toward the day’s writing goal slowed. so you took a break and opened your email, read your messages, and replied to a few, or several. Then, afraid you were missing something important, you checked in on Twitter for a few minutes. Or longer. You went back to your Word doc, typed a few sentences, deleted a couple, stared into space for a while, and then you opened your blog reader. An hour later—okay, it was longer—you returned to your writing, but, only a few paragraphs on, your friend, or your sister, or your mom phoned.

When the call ended you played a few games of Bejeweled Blitz, or Solitaire, or whatever game you’re addicted to, until it occurred to you a whole new shift of Tweeters had come online. Of course, you needed to check out what they were saying. Oh, yeah … you were supposed to be writing. You checked your word count. Then you checked the clock.

OMG, how did it get to be that late?! You haven’t even started anything for dinner.

Relax, I can help. I cook most of my dinners from scratch—well, more than half—but sometimes I need a hot meal that’s simple and quick, so here’s the recipe for one of my standbys, a quick Shepherd’s Pie. (Unfortunately, the dishing up started before I had time to take the photo.)

1 pound lean ground beef*

Dried minced onion

Celery seed

Worcestershire sauce

1 can mixed vegetables (14-15 oz.)

1 jar of beef gravy (12 oz.)

1 package (24 oz.) prepared mashed potatoes*

Grated romano and parmesan cheese

Grated sharp cheddar cheese (6 oz.)

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Brown the ground beef. While it’s cooking, drain the mixed vegetables, pour into a 2 qt. casserole, and heat in microwave. When the beef is cooked, drain and add to vegetables. Sprinkle mixture with celery seed, minced onion, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir in about 10 oz. of the gravy. Keep mixture warm. Heat mashed potatoes in microwave and mix in 3-4 tablespoons of parmesan or mixed romano/parmesan cheese. Spread mashed potatoes over beef mixture. Bake for 15 minutes, then sprinkle cheddar over the mashed potatoes and return dish to the oven for 12-15 minutes longer. (Serves 4 adults as main dish.)

* If the meat is frozen, you’ll have to add the time it takes to partially defrost in the microwave and then fry as it continues thawing in the pan.

**Simply Potatoes is the best brand I’ve found.

I can’t match Rachel Ray’s time, but 40 minutes is close, and maybe no one will know you almost forgot to cook dinner.

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Characters, Craft, Fiction, Novel, Voice, Writing

This is the scary part

Yesterday, I forced myself to get serious about writing my next novel. (Yes, I was sick. Blame it on the caffeine in the chai I drank.) I’ve been making the preparations for this novel for months, even writing out several scenes. But this time, actually getting down that first chapter is tougher.

I’m struggling with voice, which is part of the problem. I know I haven’t locked into it yet for this main character, so my inner editor lurks in the background whispering, You’re going to have to rewrite all this, you know. Since I’m not a “shitty first draft” person, it’s difficult to ignore that voice and push myself to write on.

This character is a challenge in two ways. I know who she is as an adult because she was a second-tier character in my last novel, but this one starts with her at age twelve, so she hasn’t developed that adult personality yet. This maturing of a character is not something I’ve tried before. Also, this is the first time I’ve attempted to write a novel in first person.

Structure is another challenge. This novel will consist of three parts, portraying three different stages of her life. I will bracket each section with present tense narrative, while writing the majority of the book in past tense. Numerous times already, I’ve caught myself writing in present what should be in past tense. That’s weird because I normally write in past tense, though in third person, so maybe it’s the first person that’s throwing me off.

I deliberately chose these challenges to hone my craft, but this unfamiliar territory makes me uneasy. I’m getting quivers of fear I can’t pull it off this time, but I keep putting one word in front of the other. What else can I do?

Your turn: What are the writing challenges you’ve faced recently?

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